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With the passing of the remaining Buffalo Soldiers comes the loss of first-hand historical accounts from the men who served valiantly in World War II and Korea.
Fayetteville’s Lewis Curtis, who serves as past president of the 24th Infantry Regimental Combat Team Association, is working to preserve that history for future generations.
“We are dwindling,” says the 86-year-old Curtis, referring to the number of Buffalo Soldiers still living. “The numbers are dropping by about 50 percent every year.”
Curtis, a Dellrose native who joined the Buffalo Soldiers in 1945, recently returned from the 27th annual reunion of the association held in Grand Rapids, Mich., which celebrates the formation of the all-black regiments dubbed “Buffalo soldiers” because of their fighting spirit.
“It’s just amazing the contact, how close we are even now, what few of us are left,” Curtis said of his comrades. “I wouldn’t want to go through it all again, but it was an experience of a lifetime.”
Just four years ago, some 300 Buffalo Soldiers attended the association’s annual reunion, Curtis said; this year, only 50 were able to make it to Grand Rapids.
While reunion attendees reminisce about their service and the bonds forged with their fellow soldiers so many years ago, they also work together to help preserve the history of the Buffalo Soldier regiments, which were deactivated in 1951.
“The youngest person who served in an original outfit would be 79-years-old now,” Curtis said.
Most of the surviving Buffalo Soldiers are, like Curtis, in their 80s now.
For those interested in reading more about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Public Library now has a book available that chronicles the majority of that history. ”Buffalo Soldiers: African American Troops in the US forces 1866-1945”, by Ron Field and Alexander Bielakowski, covers the history of the African-American soldiers from the American Civil War through World War II.
For those who would like to hear more about the Buffalo Soldiers, Curtis is available to speak to school groups and civic organizations and welcomes the opportunity to share his story and the history of the Buffalo Soldiers. You may contact Curtis at 433-9260.